Tasty, versatile, vegan: Why Bunte Burger is so special

Leaving the world a more wonderful place for their children is the basic principle driving the operators of Bunte Burger restaurant in Cologne. Organic, sustainable and free from animal products – this combination earned Ulrich Glemnitz and Mario Binder the METRO Award for Sustainable Hospitality in 2020.

Bunte Burger, Ulrich Glemnitz and Mario Binder

When you think of a burger, you may well have in mind a meat patty between 2 halves of a bread roll. ‘But vegans want to eat great burgers too,’ Mario Binder thought as soon as he himself became vegan several years ago. So he and his longstanding friend Ulrich Glemnitz starting getting creative between those 2 halves of bread roll. A real success story, due in part to the pair not clinging too tightly to each idea yet also brooking no compromise on the things that mattered.

As lateral entrants to the hospitality industry with business backgrounds, they originally set up shop in a food truck in 2014. Although there was already a vast number of gastronomic delights in a metropolis as large and populous as Cologne, the city lacked options offering a varied vegan menu and a thoroughly sustainable concept. So Binder and Glemnitz created this concept themselves. ‘We started with 6 vegan burgers that were all very different,’ says Glemnitz, recalling the beginnings of Bunte Burger.

Burger Patties Bunte Burger

From food truck to restaurant

The 2 founders took the food truck to markets and industrial estates. They quickly gathered fans and a customer base, many of whom were neither strictly vegan nor vegetarian but were won over by both the quality and flavours of this new take on soul food. After a year in the food truck, the aspiring restaurateurs opened their vegan burger restaurant.

At Bunte Burger there are patties made from kidney beans, polenta or jackfruit – and they intentionally taste nothing like their animal-based forerunners. ‘We consciously strive not to imitate meat,’ says Glemnitz. ‘Instead, we want to create a flavour experience that you don’t get from a conventional burger.’ However, the meat substitute products from BeyondMeat, which are consciously very close to the animal originals, are also available on the Bunte Burger menu. ‘You just have to do that because people ask for it,’ they say. ‘And we wanted to accommodate that wish.’

Responding to customer wishes – with a concept that makes good business sense

Since the opening, the founders have responded continually to customer wishes. Although sustainability is important, there does have to be a profitable concept behind it. ‘Initially, we had a pricing strategy where each burger cost the same. We quickly noticed that many people found this too expensive. So we introduced price differentiation and different burger types,’ Binder explains. People wanting a basic burger without too many frills can have just that – or for a few euros more, they can have a special burger.

A similar thing happened with the chips made from organic potatoes. ‘To start with, we offered chips with a dip for €4.90. The dip often came back only half used or even untouched. This was also an issue in terms of waste avoidance and resource management,’ Glemnitz says. So the pair decided to make the chips cheaper and offer a range of dips as extras. This means the option is there for guests to pay €0.90 extra and choose the exact sauce they really crave. Glemnitz says, ‘This way, guests can decide for themselves what they want and what they are willing to pay.’

A pinch of pragmatism in the interests of sustainability

Environment Award Bunte Burger

A sustainable concept in particular always needs to be well thought through and costed. ‘Being organic is our No. 1 priority,’ Glemnitz says. So he and his business partner would like to stick as closely as possible to organic products. But of course the pair also know that conventional products are not necessarily of poorer quality. ‘We ourselves still eat conventional products now and again, and also use them for the restaurant – in the cases where it makes sense. But we also know how organic farming works,’ Glemnitz says. His grandparents used to run a conventional farm that then became organic. ‘It’s a completely different approach and interaction with nature that we welcome and want to support.’

Even though ‘organic’ is an important part of their sustainable concept, Glemnitz and Binder are not dogmatic about it but bring a healthy dose of pragmatism to their undertaking. This includes scrutinising the meaningfulness of certain products and processes. For example, they found that the fryer oil for the chips does not absolutely have to be organic. In the long run and because of the quantities they require, it is better to use a conventional oil so that they remain economically viable for longer. But they feel that there is clearly no compromising on other things. The tables in the restaurant are made from regional Cologne beechwood and the straws are made of glass. Employees are provided with public transport tickets for travelling to work, and through precise demand monitoring and planning, the Bunte Burger rubbish bins are surprisingly empty.

Bunte Burger for eating at home – and for the HoReCa sector

Bunte Burger Restaurant

During the coronavirus lockdown, the restaurant has remained closed, with no delivery service available. Takeaway food is only offered during special campaigns. ‘As most of our customers are not in our immediate neighbourhood, it wasn’t worth it economically for us to operate a regular delivery business,’ Glemnitz explains. Nevertheless, the 2020 winners of the METRO Award for Sustainable Hospitality aren’t sitting around twiddling their thumbs. Quite the opposite! The restaurateurs are expanding the ‘Bunte’ flavour to home kitchens, offering their ‘Superheropaddy’ and ‘Boom Jack BBQ’ patty varieties for sale to end consumers as well as to bulk buyers from the HoReCa sector.

‘More and more people want high-quality, tasty plant-based alternatives on their plates. Our patties are a great option here,’ Glemnitz says. ‘They’re delicious as burgers, as snacks or as the centrepiece to build a tasty meal around. There’s no limit to creativity in the kitchen as they can used in a variety of ways – on the BBQ, in the frying pan or in the deep fryer. They’re definitely multi-talented.’

METRO Award for Sustainable Hospitality

With the METRO Award for Sustainable Hospitality, METRO honours sustainable concepts in the hospitality industry. In 2020, first place was awarded to organic-vegan restaurant Bunte Burger from Cologne with its green gastronomic concept. In second place was FLORIS Catering. Third place went to the employees’ restaurant at MAN Energy Solutions National & RENK AG in Augsburg. The 2019 winner was DingsDums Dumplings from Berlin. A specialist jury selects the finalists from among all the applications, and then a public vote decides the winner. For the 2021 award, restaurateurs can send their applications in response to the call for proposals in the period from 18 June to 31 July 2021. All restaurateurs operating in Germany are entitled to participate. Those interested in participating can apply by simply completing the application form on www.metro.de/aktionen/nachhaltige-gastronomie.

More on the topic: Recognition for Innovators, Courage for the Entire Industry Sector

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